Value chains – there’s still work to be done

Keti Koti & value chains – there is still work to be done.

Every 1st of July there is Keti Koti, it’s the festival of broken chains. Slavery therefore seems like something from a distant past. Unfortunately, slave labor still occurs. We often think of ultra-cheap products (Shein t-shirts, for example), in factories far away. But make no mistake. Things can also go wrong with luxury brands in Europe.

For example, Dior handbags made the news last week. The carabinieri had raided a sweatshop near Milan where the bags are made and found Chinese and Filipino workers working there in primitive and unsafe conditions. The workers, some of whom are undeclared, slept above the factory. ‘Made in Italy’ sounds good, but does not guarantee slave-free production.

Similar is the example of tomatoes from Italy, where we conducted an Impact Assessment on human rights with ImpactBuying in 2022. So close to home, migrants pick the tomatoes and live in appalling conditions.

    Fortunately, we are heading in the right direction. Last week attention was also paid to the barcode, which will make way for a QR code in 2027. Such a QR code can contain a lot of information. For example, about the place of origin, including satellite images and sustainability criteria. It would be right if working conditions were also included.

    Europe is working hard to achieve fair and transparent value chains. From this financial year, large companies must report on what is happening in their chains. Empty promises are no longer acceptable. Moreover, they become responsible for all abuses in their chains, even if they occur at suppliers.

    Now the bosses of Dior, who sell the bags for 49 times more than they buy, are still going free. Only the subcontractor is held responsible. Ultimately, of course, the power lies with the consumer. We decide every day with our wallets for the world we want. Of course, this is only possible if we really know what we are buying. The fact that Keti Koti is being celebrated more and more is a hopeful signal for what we want our world to look like.